After 4 days in the beautiful Southern town of Akrotiri, I decided to make my way up north to pastures new in the town of Fira, which is the capital of Santorini and the biggest town on the island, with Oia (pronounced ee-ya) being the second biggest and most tourist-laden.
For those wanting to dive straight into the action, Fira is the place the be. Brimming with luxury restaurants, nightclubs, restaurants, bars, entertainment spots and an amazing view of the Caldera, Fira is definitely a tourist hotspot with a lot of things to do. The downside to this is that it can and will get incredibly packed – especially considering how narrow the sloped streets are, teamed with the immense heat. This also goes for the town of Oia which – due to their famous sunset views – is rammed with tourists on the roads trying to get their perfect pictures.
For that reason, I would suggest visiting the island during the low season which is between November to April. Not only will the weather be a lot cooler, but hotels will be cheaper and there will be a lot less tourists floating about!
Fira – like Oia – is a town built into the cliffs and so it stands to reason that accessibility for those who are not able-bodied is incredibly limited. As much as it would be easy to want to look for someone to blame for this, having walked through the town at length, it’s incredibly hard for me to think about how they would even begin to make the town accessible and 100% wheelchair friendly. As I said earlier, due to the layout of the terrain and the incredibly steep and narrow roads, it’s stairs all the way.
A lot of the main roads have wide sloping pavements where wheelchairs could definitely get around, but they are few and far between. If you’re someone who doesn’t like climbing hills and hundreds of stairs at a time in order to get from A to B, Santorini may not be the one for you. You are able to get around by taxi, coaches, 4×4 bikes and even cable cars, but as the vast majority of the hotels and restaurants are cliff-side, the roads are for the most part, pedestrian-only. Something to keep in mind before booking!
Things to do
While there, I did a lot of walking up various hills to be honest. The sunsets and the panoramic views sustained me for many hours and just being able to climb to different viewpoints to take in the magnificence was enough for me. Not too far from my hotel was the Museum of Prehistoric Thera (the actual name for Santorini) which was really awesome and contained artifacts from the Neolithic and Cycladic periods, predominantly from Akrotiri in the south. The Minoan civilisation left a big imprint on the island, so there were LOADS of amazing bits of pottery and things of that nature to learn about.
There are also several hotels that can coordinate sunset yacht tours including dinner on board which I thought was amazing and great value for money (starting from around £60 per person) considering you were being sailed around the volcano on a semi-private yacht (maximum 15 people), and having dinner cooked for you on board using freshly caught seafood. A bit of a bargain!
There is also the chance to go on four hour wine tasting tours, and two hour horse riding adventures, but the yacht and catamaran trips around the Caldera are the REAL draws here, and I would encourage you to definitely budget for those tours when deciding on whether to come here.
This time around, I decided to book in at the 4 star Adamant Suites (hey, I wanted to indulge at least once okay?!) located cliffside in the centre of Fira. Adamant Suites consists of nine rooms all named after precious stones, which I thought was cute. I stayed in the Aquamarine Suite, which I think was the smallest of the nine, and the only one without an outdoor hot tub. The suite boasted all the normal facilities one would expect of a hotel room, including slippers, a robe, a fully stocked mini bar, bathroom cosmetics and amazing air conditioning.
I also randomly had a rope swing in my room, which I guess was there to make up for the lack of sofa or armchair?? It was cute I suppose, but I couldn’t trust the weight limit as it was hanging from the ceiling, so I left that alone. Opposite the bed was a huge window that led to a small balcony, giving absolutely STUNNING panoramic views of the Caldera and the volcanos. Honestly, waking up every day to those views were truly something special. The bathroom boasted double sinks, a generous shower and an indoor hot tub, which was great to dip into after long days of sightseeing.
One of the main things Santorini is known for are their whitewashed cubic building structures and ‘cave houses’. It’s one of the features of the island that makes it so Instagramable. Because of this, there is a law that states that houses and establishments can be no higher than two floors, due to the uneven terrain and general concern of you know…being on the edge of a cliff.
I say this, because I think it’s important to note that elevators and escalators are not so common here, so if you book a hotel room with the intention of having amazing panoramic views, prepare to walk up hundreds of cliffside stairs to get there. My room was below the main reception, and so I had to walk down a few stairs to get there.
The hotel does not have a restaurant either, but being in the midst of the nightlife drama, it was easy to find somewhere to eat during the afternoon and evening and if you wanted room service for dinner, you could telephone the restaurant next door (in this case, the restaurant was the AMAZING 1500BC) where they would deliver the food to you a-la-Uber Eats style, and collect the plates and cutlery from your room afterwards.
The staff were incredibly friendly and hospitable, especially the receptionist Antonia who made me feel incredibly welcome. I did unfortunately, have an ant infestation in my room and despite the staff’s best efforts to find and destroy the nest, the room being carved into a hill meant that they just kept finding ways to come back in every night. Another thing to keep in mind if you think about eating in your room.
All in all, I’d give the room a 7/10. The hotel is located on a pedestrian-only street which is about a 6-7 minute walk from the nearest car park. Lugging two heavy suitcases up several steps and slopes to get to the premises, then having to lug them down several stairs again to get to the room, did some work on my knees, I’ll tell you that, LOL.
Restaurants & bars to check out
Probably the part most people want to know about! Below are some hot spots I would highly recommend, if you’re looking for a nice place for dinner and drinks in the area:
OMMA Santorini in Imerovigli: OMMA is a luxury boutique hotel in the nearby town of Imerovigli that not only boasts beautiful villas and suites that have extraordinary sea and Caldera views, but also a beautiful fine dining restaurant serving well portioned meals using top quality local ingredients. Alongside this is the all day pool bar that offers spectacular panoramic views of the sea.
1500BC in Fira: So good, I went back twice! 1500BC is an incredible seafood restaurant next to my hotel that serves not only traditional Greek cuisine, pasta dishes, as well as freshly caught seafood including swordfish, calamari and lobster. The atmosphere and service is sublime, and the sunset view is to die for when dining on the upper terrace. I LIVED for their desserts tbh: their strawberry pavlova is superb and incredibly filling. Absolutely would recommend!
Barolo in Fira: Barolo is directly opposite 1500BC, so very convenient! Another restaurant that has beautiful panoramic views of the Caldera, Barolo have amazing greek food and an established list of local wines.
Some other nearby restaurants I’d highly recommend include: Argo, Kaliya (they are so creative with how they reimagine traditional Greek food!) and Cacio e Pepe (if you’re looking for beautifully authentic Greek salads).
To Psariki: Quite probably one of the best seafood restaurants on the island, To Psariki is nestled on the island’s main fishing port and has a vast array of affordable, high quality seafood dishes, alongside some what I presume to be (as i don’t drink!) great wines!
All in all, I had the most amazing experience in Santorini. It was a stay that was so overdue – not just coming to the island, but getting away from London in general and chilling out on my own. This trip was a bit of a different one for me as I’m used to having a full itinerary of things to do and discover when on holiday, but this laid-back, chilled experience will definitely be one to remember. It was perfect.